One of the most frequently investigated effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF EMFs) on the behavior of complex biological systems is pain sensitivity. Despite the growing body of evidence of EMF-induced changes in pain sensation, there is no currently accepted experimental protocol for such provocation studies for the healthy human population. In the present study, therefore, we tested the effects of third generation Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) RF EMF exposure on the thermal pain threshold (TPT) measured on the surface of the fingers of 20 young adult volunteers. The protocol was initially validated with a topical capsaicin treatment. The exposure time was 30min and the genuine (or sham) signal was applied to the head through a patch antenna, where RF EMF specific absorption rate (SAR) values were controlled and kept constant at a level of 1.75W/kg. Data were obtained using randomized, placebo-controlled trials in a double-blind manner. Subjective pain ratings were tested blockwise on a visual analogue rating scale (VAS). Compared to the control and sham conditions, the results provide evidence for intact TPT but a reduced desensitization effect between repeated stimulations within the individual blocks of trials, observable only on the contralateral side for the genuine UMTS exposure. Subjective pain perception (VAS) data indicated marginally decreased overall pain ratings in the genuine exposure condition only. The present results provide pioneering information about human pain sensation in relation to RF EMF exposure and thus may contribute to cover the existing gap between safety research and applied biomedical science targeting the potential biological effects of environmental RF EMFs.
- Electromagnetic fields
- Visual analogue rating scale
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging